The local authority carries out regular checks on all food premises to ensure the public is protected and that high standards are maintained.
Inspections take place on a frequency determined by the perceived risk in each premises and ensure that risks have been identified, staff are adequately trained and the condition and cleanliness of the premises meets required standards.
Environmental health officers have the right to enter and inspect food premises at all reasonable hours. They do not have to make an appointment and they will usually come without advance notice. They carry out routine inspections and may also visit as a result of a complaint.
Inspectors will look at the way people operate their businesses to identify potential hazards and to make sure they comply with the law. Depending on what they find Officers can give advice either verbally or by letter or in more extreme cases carry out enforcement action or even close premises.
People running food businesses are entitled to expect from inspectors:
- a courteous manner;
- to be shown identification;
- feedback from any inspection, such as information about hazards which have been identified and guidance on how they could be avoided;
- a clear distinction between what the inspector is recommending them to do because it is good practice and what they must do to comply with the law;
- to be given the reasons in writing for any action they are asked to take;
- where there is an apparent breach of law, a statement of what that law is;
- reasonable time to meet statutory requirements, except where there is an immediate risk to public health;
- to be told the procedures for appealing against council action.
The inspectors' powers
- They can take samples and photographs and inspect records.
- People running food businesses and their employees must not obstruct inspectors.
- Inspectors may write and ask businesses to put right any problems they find.
- Where breaches of the law are identified that must be put right, they may serve people with an improvement notice.
- They can detain or seize suspect food. In serious cases, they may decide to recommend a prosecution.
- If the prosecution is successful, the court may impose prohibitions on processes and the use of premises or equipment, fines and possibly imprisonment.
- If there is an imminent health risk to consumers, inspectors can serve an emergency prohibition notice that forbids the use of the premises or equipment. A notice must be confirmed by the court.